In vitro fertilization (IVF) is the most common type of assisted reproductive technology (ART), used to create an embryo by bypassing certain causes of infertility, such as mild sperm abnormalities in men, and fallopian tube or ovulation irregularity in women. During IVF, a woman’s eggs are surgically retrieved and then fertilized in a laboratory by mixing with a partner (or donor’s) sperm. The fertilized egg, or embryo, is left to grow for two to five days, and is then surgically transferred back into the woman’s womb.
In general, patients will seek advice from a fertility doctor after one year of trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant. The chances of a fertile couple conceiving a child in any given month (called the natural pregnancy rate) is around 20%; resulting in roughly ninety percent of couples becoming pregnant after one year of trying to conceive. It’s recommended that the remaining 10 percent of couples consult a fertility specialist. In particular, women over thirty are encouraged to undergo a fertility treatment evaluation, after six months of attempting to conceive. And it may be beneficial for women over forty to meet with a fertility doctor shortly after deciding to try and have a child.
There are a number of factors involved in determining if a patient is suitable for IVF treatment. Appropriate candidates often include couples who may experience:
a) Low sperm counts
c) Problems with the uterus or fallopian tubes
d) Ovulation disorders
e) Sperm unable to penetrate or survive in the cervical mucus
f) Other health or unexplained reproductive issues
The only way to know for sure if in vitro fertilization is right for you is to undergo a complete exam and consultation.
The in vitro fertilization process can last anywhere from four to six weeks prior to egg retrieval. The embryo(s) will then be implanted between two to five days afterwards. Not all patients are successful on their first IVF attempt; in fact, it’s not uncommon for patients to go through multiple IVF cycles before finally becoming pregnant.
Once a pregnancy is confirmed, you’ll see your fertility doctor for continued blood testing, and eventually an ultrasound to confirm that the pregnancy is progressing smoothly. Once the fetus’ heartbeat has been verified, you’ll be referred to an obstetrician for the rest of your pregnancy.